Should you be in Klout and Empire Avenue, and any others?

I was privileged to attend my first Social Media Mastermind OC (#SMMOC) meeting yesterday. I was blown away by the participation and the various topics that we covered. I have been following the hashtag pretty much for over a year and slowly I've seen the group grow. It was time to finally join and see what the real fuzz was all about.

After all, a hashtag is just a hashtag and 140 characters can't convey emotions, feelings, lingering thoughts, side discussions,  and the tremendous fast paced conversations that take place inside a room, especially with such an energetic crowd as the group turned out to be. I had to experience this group in real life by attending.

One of the great points I came out with from the discussions was the business purpose of doing things in social media. Should you join Twitter? Should you be on Facebook? how about LinkedIn? And once you join, what then? Ah, but it's all about strategy. (more on that later). There was a whole discussion about strategy vs logistics. Its all part of the same thing but quite different.

After joining these systems you want to know how you're doing in them. Regardless of what anyone else tells you, we all have a secret desire to know how we're doing, anyone that tells you the numbers dont' mean anything is full of it or simply delusional, ok fine... maybe they just haven't come to the realization of this universal truth. We care about the numbers and we care about the highs and the lows. If the numbers didn't matter, we wouldn't keep them.

We keep scores in games, we report earnings in financial reports, we value a car's worth by its mileage, we pick and choose the numbers that matter to us, ever since we started measuring things, we've been obsessed with the value of those scales. Now we have scores in the digital world. This was a hot topic yesterday.

In regards to the  ever popular Empire Avenue and some of the other sites that are trying to measure online activity, like Klout, what matters? Can the system be skewed to benefit somebody in particular? As a business person, with a bottom line and a responsibility to make money you might not really care to know how many followers you have on Twitter, how many people liked your Facebook page or how many connections you have on LinkedIn, but you MUST care about how you're doing in regards to yourself and how these numbers can affect your business strategy.

Marieke Hensel made a great point during the meeting in that the measurement of "stuff" in social media doesn't serve too much to to compete with others --although many people use it that way-- but the measurment is really about measuring your own success or shortcomings. A lot of people tend to forget that you can't get somewhere without a roadmap... you need to know where, and how you want to get where you're going and in a digital world, these new tools serve as lighthouses and guiding points to help you stay on course.

DarinRMcClure made it clear. You need to be on EmpireAvenue Today. And here's why I think you need to. Chances that you'll join one of the social networks I mentioned before, or you're already in them, but in an of themselves, they are  closed systems for the most part. What happens in Youtube stays in youtube, unless you facebook it or tweet it. What you say on Twitter doesn't make it to Facebook unless you share it.

So you have to measure how your'e doing. What's working? How are you leveraging the tools to meet your business strategy? And that's where EAv and klout and others come in to really tell you how you are doing in comparison to how you were doing yesterday, and giving you the vision of how you want to be doing in the future.

EmpireAvenue measures activity on each of your top 5 networks. Each person has a different group of sites they participate in and you can plug in almost any of them into Empire Avenue. It can measure Youtube, Flickr, Facebook, YOUR own Blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even generic RSS feeds, and to measure it, it simply assigns a score to it.

For example, if you were involved in politics and you are getting TV commercials out, how can you tell who's watching them? Nielsens you say... but really? do you have the budget to get a TV spot in a Nielsens rated channel? Most people don't.

The value of measuring your reach with EAv or Klout is that you can see how your Youtube channel is doing (don't even get me started on the benefits of Youtube vs traditional TV!) in comparison to what it was doing yesterday. You might not care about LinkedIn, or Facebook, if that's how you want to play... BUT you do care about that youtube score and so you must be able to measure its progress, this is why you want to be on EA.

The price of a tv spot is EXPENSIVE. But here's Youtube, a free resource that lets you put video and share with your constituents, and it lets you engage with them on a pretty personal basis. And to paraphrase/quote Darin again, what's not measured cannot be managed!

Social networks are just that, network places to meet constituents, customers, partners, vendors, friends, colleagues and others. You don't go into social media to be in business, you bring social media into your existing business. Unless of course you're a social media related solution.

There's a lot of loose thoughts in here and some of this is very stream-of-consciousness but to answer the original question. Should you be in these systems? YES, if only to establish a baseline that you can use as your yardstick.